Competing springtime events didn’t stop a throng of millennials and a few older music enthusiasts from rocking out at Don’t Stop St. Pete 2017æon a sunny afternoon in St. Petersburg. æThe community festival at the Morean Center for Clay served up a pastiche of sights and sounds from early afternoon to midnight. Popular local/regional acts such as Luxury Mane,æSet & Setting, Jensen Serf Company,æPermanent Makeup and Sonic Graffitiæandæ25 other acts took to indoor and outdoor stages cheekily named “Don’t,” “Stop,” “St.” and “Pete.”
As with any music festival, there areæthe bands you set out to see and the new acts that become revelations. While some concert fests can wreak havoc with a jumbled mess of delayed start times, DSSP kept it compactly scheduled with a succession of acts that took turns starting from one stage to the next. Performing from 3 p.m. until midnight, they drew crowds with a staggering variety of moods and styles.
The Jackettesædelighted in the afternoon with melodic pop, upbeat humor, infectious bass lines and soulful falsettos. On the darker side of the spectrum, Davie-based duoæIan Iachimoeæ(the name ofæa Paul McCartney pseudonym) appealed to heavy music lovers with just a drum set and bass guitar aided by copious effects. Whatever the duo lacked in manpower they made up for it in triplicate with metallic mania, progressiveæarrangements and propulsive rhythms.
“Maybe one of the most under-recognized bands we hosted from out of town was Ian Iachimoe,”æSerena added. “I think their sound is really complementary to Set and Setting. They are a two-piece that play as loud as a 20-piece band.”
Speaking of mad rhythms, Permanent Makeup ushered in the nighttime performances with theiræenergetic, avant-garde mishmash of angular guitar riffs and booty-shakeability.
“We got there early to see The Spuds, and I loved them,” shared Permanent Makeup drummer Susan Dickson-Nadeau, who sported the ironed-on command, “Respect Women Now!!!” on the front of her white T-shirt. The acclaimed percussionist saidæshe enjoyed the trio’sæcatchy style and feminist tunes, highlighted by anæanti-cat-callingæaudience clap-along.
During Permanent Makeup’s set, husband/frontman Chris Nadeau, ventured offstage in the thick of their appreciative crowd — as didæAutarx‘s vocally acrobatic, face-painted frontwoman, who, according to Orlando Weekly, goes by the name “Raised by Wolves.” æThe O-Town-based Goth-punk band recall popular genres of the 1970s and ’80s but their delivery and blend of ætempos are exciting and fresh.
Off-stage antics recurred throughout the night. æSerena commented onæthe late-night action:
From a stage adorned with holiday lights a laæWinona Ryder’s living room in the aforementionedæNetflix series to the crochet candles hanging from the Stop stage, æSerena set out to set her event apart from the chain-link fences and barren expansesæof most festivals.
“We owe a great deal to St Pete’s own Lost In Time Creation for accentuating the property’s charm with custom fabricated staging and chill zones,” she said. “It’s those details that differentiate our festival from larger more turn-key events.”
Serena stipulated that she made it a point to import friendly bands from all over Florida. “Wastelands has been shredding in Miami for a few years,” she said, “and it was a treat to bring their energy to the roster. People definitely lost it during their set.”
Local information booths and vendors supplemented the entertainment with quality foods and goods. Included wereæUrban Brew and BBQ, æBlack Crow Coffee Co, artist Josh Comics, æWashed Ashore, Badass Baubles & Things, Keep St. Pete Lit, Wild Nocturne, Black Moth Candle Co. and Rejuled.
Ray’s Vegan Soulæfed hungry concertgoers fedæhungry concertgoers in for the long haul, and Sarasota-based PopCraft Popsæindulged withænaturally tasty sweet frozen treats. æMitchell Goodrich’s Film World Desert zines set up indoors with reading material between stages, and Woveprint Co. brought their silkscreen presses to create custom tees with snazzy Florida artwork bearing the slogan, “A sunny place for shady people.”
The origins of Don’t Stop trace back to Antiwarpt, which launched in 2010 as an alternative to the Vans Warped Tour. æWith two wildly successful runs, the fest earned a respectable imprimatur on its own, all but shedding associations with itsænational-mainstream counterpart. In 2013, its promoters spun off with their own events at different times of the year: Plan B and Don’t Stop St. Pete.
Serena has said that she strove to make Don’t Stop St. Pete more of a community-focused event than just another music festival.
She’s also involvedæenvironmentalæawareness in her other role as vice president ofæPeople for Protecting Peace River, an organization “built upon safeguarding our watershed and protecting Floridaäó»s native ecosystems.” Volunteers handed out information from the organization and the Center for Biological Diversity. $1 from each ticket sold went to the People for Protecting Peace River.
“Community is at the core of everything we do with Don’t Stop St Pete. From the local bands and vendors, to the production and volunteers, everything ties back to the city. We tried to reflect that with this year’s branding, by referencing the World Liquors sign on Central, and juxtaposing it with the municipal St. Pete sun mascot (artwork by event partner Brian Butler; the was also recently popularized by Chad Mize’s downtown mural).
“Our core team is made of people who are passionate about our scene. Many of our performers have returned each year to perform or volunteer. … They see us doing the same (as individuals) for their events. We love how there is a shared sense of admiration, and a common notion that a high tide raises all ships.”